In grade school my son loved celebrating his summer birthday with a big party that included family, friends and everyone in his class. But after the last slice of cake was eaten and all the guests had gone home there was still one activity left, opening the pile of gifts. It became overwhelming and reached the point where his birthday seemed bigger than Christmas. It was time for a lesson in giving.
If your child is overloaded with gifts on his or her birthday, or if you feel it is time to teach the gift of giving, consider hosting a charitable birthday party this year. Your child will still enjoy celebrating his or her big day with friends and family. But instead of bringing a gift, ask your guests to bring a donation to a charity of your child’s choice. So your child won’t completely miss out on the new bike they’d been hoping for, limit gift giving to just family members. Or one big present from mom and dad.
Here are some ideas to get the party started
For your sporty child: Consider an activity like swimming, soccer, indoor ice skating, miniature golf, bowling, a bounce house at home or an indoor inflatables destination. Ask your guests to bring new or used shoes and clothing for Soles4Souls (soles4souls.org). This organization distributes donations to the needy in the United States and countries in Central and South America and Africa. Or find a local charity that accepts used athletic equipment to help sports leagues for underprivileged youth in your area. Or check out the website sportsgift.org that donates new equipment to needy kids around the world so they too, can enjoy the fun of sports. Then ask your guests to round up their kids’ old sports gear to donate or ask them to purchase something new.
For the animal lover: Contact your local humane society to find out if they host kid’s birthday parties. If not, throw the party at home and have the kids make toys, blankets or anything else your humane society suggests for their homeless pets. Or take a trip to the zoo. Ask your guests to donate to the World Wildlife fund (worldwildlife.org) and they can adopt an animal they’d like to help. Adoptable animals include elephants, penguins, tigers and panda bears. Or, if you’re brave enough, throw a party with the local lizard guy at your house. Encourage guests to make donations to Heifer International (heifer.org) and let kids pick from a gift of goats, a present of pigs or any of the other animals Heifer International will provide to needy families in third world countries. The National Wildlife Federation (nwf.org) also maintains an adopt an animal program. With a donation you can adopt a gray wolf, harp seal or great horned owl to name a few.
For your little chef: These days cooking is all the rage and it isn’t just for adults anymore. Try hosting a cooking party for your little food lover. Check to see if there is a local venue like a specialty grocery store or cooking school that hosts parties for kids. Or a business that will come to your home and conduct a class. Or even a mobile culinary school. If not, use your own kitchen and host a pizza making party. Provide chef hats and individual pizza crusts for each child and a variety of toppings and let them make their own pie. Or make homemade ice cream and provide a choice of toppings like fruit, chocolate or caramel sauce, candies, or crushed cookies. Ask your guests to bring food to donate to your local food pantry.
Host a Happy Doll party: For a child who loves dolls, Happydoll.org provides dolls and all the materials needed so your guests can decorate a doll for a needy child. Each guest gets a cloth doll and non-toxic pens to design their own unique doll. Each doll has a specific tracking code so you can track where each decorated doll has traveled. Dolls are shipped to needy children throughout the U.S., and throughout the world including Haiti, India and China.
For the generous child: If your child just wants a simple but fun birthday party without a specific theme, host a cake and ice cream, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, musical chairs, and piñata kind of party that you may have enjoyed as a child. Consider donating to the children’s ward of a local hospital or to Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities. Or collect books and school supplies to donate to a church or other organization that helps local kids in need.
And if you want to send a little something home with your generous guests, say goodbye to the junk of the goody bag and try one of these simple ideas instead: make a craft like a friendship bracelet or a rubber band bracelet, ice cream cone gift certificate, local kid’s restaurant small gift certificate, sidewalk chalk, small book, homemade snacks like granola, trail mix or muffins (be sure to check for allergies.)
Lisa Nord Seplak is a freelance writer and mom who enjoys planning teachable activities with her family.